Students at Garza Elementary were all smiles when they showed up to campus on a recent Tuesday morning. They were excited because it was a special day.

Their school had invited their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other male figures to join them in participating in the Million Father March. The national movement is celebrated in school districts across the country with the goal of getting male role models involved in their children’s education and social development.

At Garza Elementary, the men had the honor of escorting their children to the cafeteria where they enjoyed donuts and bonding time. They also had the opportunity to pose for pictures in front of a display set up especially for them.

Santos Centeno was accompanied by two of his children. “My kids mean everything to me,” Centeno said. “By being here, it shows them how important they are to me.”

For the grand finale, the special guests were treated to high fives from the students who paraded down the main hallway. From kindergarteners to fifth graders, each of the 600-plus Garza Elementary children proudly participated in the march.

40Principal Maria Gomez said this was the first time the school organized a Million Father March as a way to highlight the importance men play in promoting early learning and literacy.

“We want to promote academic awareness to the fathers and male role models around our community,” Gomez said. “We invited them to campus to show them that we need their support to help their children be successful.”

Educators say children learn, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior when their fathers or significant role models are involved in their lives, especially when they show an interest in their education.

Javier Castillo could not agree more. He accompanied his daughter Denisse to the event. “Being here is very important,” Castillo said. “I appreciate that the school invited us. I had never been here. My daughter’s mom is the one who usually comes and does everything. But, when I heard about this event, I wanted to come and be a part of it with my daughter. It shows her that I’m here for her.”


Castillo said fathers should also keep the line of communication open at home. “Every day I ask her about school and if she has homework,” he said. “She talks about what went on that day and about her friends. Communication is key. It’s a bond that grows with your child.”

Principal Gomez said the event was a success and that the turnout was better than she expected. She hopes the message is clear. “We hope this event has motivated our parents,” she said. “We need them to take the initiative and support their children so that when they come to school they will be successful.”